This one photo represents years of desire and, conversely, gnashing of teeth, tears, and copious screams of frustration.
At long last, I have produced (with Josh’s help as fry cook) edible orange chicken. Let me repeat that: edible. Orange. Chicken. The impossible has now become possible.
My sister has (for the past two days) been including on her Facebook page things to be thankful for (we are in November now, after all). Saturday I wrote in the comments that I was thankful for walking shoes, water, wonderful coworkers, and (with my sister’s prompting) no leg cramps. I completed my first mile plus 5K that day for the Komen Race for the Cure (walking, not running). This pulled me wayyyyyyyyy out of my comfort zone because I don’t exercise. Ever. I have never felt that exercise endorphin rush. Ever. It’s not that I’m lazy. I’m just clumsy. I can literally trip over my own two feet. I’m more prone to trip over my feet with my laces tied, if that gives you any indication of my clumsiness. I do have to say, though, that the sense of fulfillment really clicked yesterday morning. Others veered off right at the end to head to their cars, but I refused to veer off course until I crossed the finish line (at one hour, three minutes, and change for the 5K).
Of course, today the pain set in. I have been taking lots of warm baths in the past 24 hours hoping to offset what I know will hit tomorrow.
Today, of course, I wrote that I was thankful for my family, especially Josh and Muffin.
It was truly a family effort today to pull together the feat of tonight’s menu.
When I told Josh earlier today what was on the menu, he winced. Orange chicken, as I may have mentioned before, has always been a yummy dish in our household. It’s my Chinese restaurant standard. Which makes it all the worse when I cannot seem to reproduce it in an edible fashion in our own home. I have attempted several varieties (including several failed slow cooker versions) and been moved to tears (NOT of happiness) several times. Each time I have been sure, positive, motivated to prove that this recipe would work. And faced disappointment time and time again.
But tonight’s attempt has set in motion my thankful item for day 3 (tomorrow): I am thankful (and indebted) to Ree Drummond (a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman) for this recipe that she featured on her television show and later her blog. It is because of her recipe that I cried tonight (tears of joy for the first time) over the orange chicken on my plate. It is because of her that my mouth feels aromatically rank of garlic…green onion…ginger…and orange rind. In a great way.
I also managed to produce another recipe that has eluded me in the past (but is one of Josh’s favorites at the Chinese restaurants): Crab Rangoon. I used another website’s recipe (that I like to call D Squared or D-word Delicious, for obvious reasons). I did substitute Krab-with-a-K for the drained canned crab mentioned in her recipe (5 “legs” worth).
Here’s what Josh, Muffin, and I did for both. I should note that the crab rangoon was Muffin Approved, but the orange chicken was not. Sadly, for him, the orange chicken was (finally…FINALLY…) Mama and Dada approved. As in…we will be making this again.
from Pioneer Woman’s website
I did make a few alterations, etc., so I am going to note where I veered.
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of as much excess skin as possible), cut into small pieces (Think a 2×3 Lego brick)
4 egg whites, whipped until frothy
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Note: Pioneer Woman says to mix the cornstarch with the egg whites and then whip until frothy. I found it useful to whip the egg whites a bit with the whisk and then add in the cornstarch. Whichever way you do it, make sure your mixture is frothy and lump free when you add the chicken. Add the chicken and then let it sit 5-10 minutes while you cook the sauce.
1/2 cup orange juice (Okay, this has ALWAYS been one of the key problems with the other recipes. DO NOT be tempted to use frozen thawed concentrate or bottled orange juice. Serious heartache will result…and a side of heartburn from the overly sour and bitter juice) Josh and Muffin squeezed two small navel oranges and had almost 1/2 cup. We went with it.
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar (I used light brown…packed…plus a bit more. I think I might make it 2 tablespoons next time)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (Note: I actually measured the brown sugar first, then the soy sauce, and then the rice wine vinegar. This was to keep from having to dry the spoon before measuring the brown sugar.)
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
(I actually missed seeing the salt, so I omitted that)
1/4 teaspoon or more of crushed red pepper flake
1 clove garlic (I actually used two), minced
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger (Um…I may have used more than the 2 teaspoons…and that was Josh’s one complaint…that there was too much ginger)
one orange, zest of, pulled off with a vegetable peeler in long strips, any excess pith removed from the strips (Her recipe calls for the microplane…and that’s my usual route…but then I also tried to change everything from my usual attempts)
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, sliced (white and green parts…trim the tops of the green parts, however)
While the chicken is hanging out in its frothy bath, mix together all of the sauce ingredients except for the green onion, water, and cornstarch. In a sauce pan (what I used) or a nonstick skillet (what Pioneer Woman used), whisk together the ingredients. Place the cooking vessel over medium heat until it bubbles and thickens. Then, make a slurry with the cornstarch and the water. I misread it (her recipe called for 1 teaspoon to 1/4 water), but it worked fine with one tablespoon. I was overzealous in my desire for a thick sauce (because my past attempts had been watery and disgusting).
Once the sauce is done, it’s time to get your fry on…or, in this case, for Josh to get his fry on. I used my enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, but any heavy frying pot should work. I attempted to use the fry thermometer, but it didn’t seem to be working correctly (and it got in the way). You need to heat the oil (2 cups vegetable, canola, or peanut oil) to 350 degrees. Note: You may want to spray the Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray first. I don’t know if it will make a difference, but the batter tends to make the chicken stick to the bottom and sides of the pot. This is a two-person operation. You need one person to plop the pieces in the oil and one to stir them around. (I was the “plopper” and Josh was the “stirrer.”)
You only want to plop 5-7 pieces in at a time…one at a time…so they don’t stick together. Here’s where I may veer further away from Pioneer Woman’s technique next time. She recommends a two-stage frying process…2-3 minutes in the first time plus another minute later on. I think next time I will just leave them in until done. Josh painstakingly completed the two-stage process, however.
After cooking them the second time, drain them into the pan/skillet with the sauce, tossing them in the sauce. There is not a lot of extra sauce, just enough to coat the chicken. Stir in green onion. We served it over rice…
…with Crab Rangoons (or Rangoonies, as I called them)
Josh again manned the oil, so it was imperative that I managed to finish a few batches (filled, folded, and sealed) before he finished with the chicken. For that, I required the assistance of Muffin.
He was my scoop-maker for the filling.
Adapted from D-Word Delicious
First, I made the filling:
4 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
5 ounces faux crab (Krab) diced finely (I used the “legs”…five of them)
2 green onions, sliced thinly (both green and white parts)
2 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil (because I didn’t have much left and still needed 1/4 teaspoon for the orange chicken…the original recipe called for 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (just to be cheeky)
wonton wrappers (The original recipe calls for 24…I know I didn’t use that many)
2 cups veg oil (see above)
Combine all ingredients (except last two) in a bowl. The hardest part will be making the cream cheese combine with the rest. I used a fork kind of like a pastry blender to achieve the desired effect. It will look something like this:
Well…with a lot more in the bowl.
At this point, I enlisted child labor. Muffin was responsible for scooping out rounded teaspoons of the mixture so that I could place them on the wrappers. I had the wrappers, diamond shaped in front of me. I placed the scoop of filling just below the halfway point on the wrapper (just below the two points). Then, I moistened the two lower edges of the wrapper with water and sealed them, being careful to press out any air bubbles.
Josh used the already heated oil to cook the Rangoon, five at a time. They cooked fast! (about 30 seconds per side) We served them with plum sauce, although any dipping sauce will do.
Josh and Muffin dipped theirs…I drizzled mine on (as you can see in the picture above).
Here was our bounteous bounty of Crab Rangoon:
As I mentioned before, the Crab Rangoon was Muffin Approved (probably because he helped make it), but he really didn’t like the chicken.
What was your Sunday Supper this week?